By DÁNICA COTO, Associated Press
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Stones flew and barricades burned in parts of Haiti’s capital on Monday as the country entered its fourth week of anti-government protests that have paralyzed the economy and shuttered schools.
Opposition supporters gathered in areas including the front of the National Palace to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse as tear gas wafted through some neighborhoods. Dozens of protesters banged rocks on metal posts as others cried out, “Thief!”
James Jozil, a 26-year-old mechanic, yelled at heavily armed police officers who are part of Moïse’s security detail and were briefly stationed in front of the palace.
“Jovenel Moïse has to go because people can’t go to school, people are hungry,” he said.
Observing the gathering crowd in downtown Port-au-Prince was Gesner Denis, a 47-year-old social studies teacher who said the country’s situation had become unacceptable and that the government was incapable of governing.
“I’m thinking of my people,” he said. “Where is this country going?”
Denis’ three children are among the two million students who have been unable to attend school for nearly a month. He said his oldest child is already in college.
“His future is a question mark,” he said.
The normally congested streets of Port-au-Prince were empty of traffic just days after thousands of Haitians marched in front of the United Nations’ headquarters in one of the largest demonstrations in weeks. The protests have been fueled by anger over corruption, rising inflation and the dwindling of basic supplies including food and gasoline.
At least 17 people have been killed in the ongoing demonstrations and another nearly 200 injured, including the son of Dominique Grillon, whose son was hospitalized after being hit by a car as he set up barricade last week.
“There will never be any change in Haiti,” Grillon said, adding that protests occurred in the past and that they don’t necessarily lead to better things.
The U.N.’s Mission for Justice Support in Haiti said it was deeply concerned about what it called a protracted political crisis. It urged the government to ensure the normal functioning of schools, hospitals and emergency services and allow aid to reach the most vulnerable people.
“The mission stands ready to support peaceful solutions, which only Haitian actors can devise, to resolve the current situation and alleviate the suffering of the population, in accordance with democratic standards and human rights principles,” it said Sunday.
Many protesters are demanding a more in-depth investigation into corruption after Haiti’s senate found that at least 14 former government officials under the administration of former President Michel Martelly —an ally of Moïse— allegedly misused huge sums linked to a Venezuelan-subsidized oil program. The senate’s investigation also named a company once owned by Moïse, who has denied corruption allegations.
A government spokesman said the Organization of American States has granted Moïse’s administration $17 million to strengthen anti-corruption institutions in Haiti.